Santorini / by Paige Johnson

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You may be thinking, it doesn't seem like this place could be as beautiful in person as it looks in pictures. Well, you would in fact be wrong. Santorini has been named one of the most beautiful places in the world and rightly so. I fell in love with this magical place along with the people and decided to share our little honeymoon story, as it is one of my favorites. Even though this trip was over a year ago I often think of this place and truly miss it. So in sharing this fun story it allows me to relive it in hopes that you get just a small taste of its beauty.

So lets start from the beginning. Waking up the morning after our wedding was probably one of the most exciting mornings of my life. Our wedding truly couldn't have gone better and we both were still on high from the wedding not to mention that within hours we would be in a place I've only fantasized about. I had watched Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants only about 200 times and never thought I would get to stand in the place where Kostas and Lena kindled their flame! Eeeek! Only some of you will appreciate this, but I digress. So, the morning of we had breakfast in our quaint little home, went to my parents to print out the plane tickets ( yes I probably should have done that sooner), and headed off to meet our driver. On the way to JFK, Jerry, our driver, told us all about the places he had been and the crazy adventures he experienced and the beauty of the world; which only made me that more anxious of course. It was both our first time in another country and it was Jesse's first time on a plane. So on arriving to JFK, Jerry gave us a hug goodbye and we were on our way! After spending about four hours at the airport ( browse shopping, eating, etc.) we finally were on our flight to our first stop, Switzerland. 

  Goodbye New York City!

Goodbye New York City!

So at this point, half way through the flight, it is already our bed time. We both fell asleep and were woken up right before landing with breakfast. This to Jesse was probably one of the most exciting moments as he realized you get free meals (not hard to please this guy)! Looking out our window as we landed we got a magnificent view of the Swiss Alps. At this point, it sinks in for both of us that we are very very far away from home and that's a pretty amazing feeling. 

  I apologize the iPhone pictures just aren't doing it justice

I apologize the iPhone pictures just aren't doing it justice

So what to do while waiting in a Switzerland airport? Eat Swiss chocolates of course! After hours of bakery and coffee shop browsing and tasting, with a chocolate high, we were on our next flight to Athens.

Landing in Athens I couldn't help but feel the butterflies of excitement. We were almost there! I had craved travel for so long and knowing you are getting the opportunity to be in the place of your dreams is such a blessing. After another few hours of pacing around the airport, becoming a little less fun at this point, we were finally on flight to Santorini. Thirty minutes later…. We arrived!

I should have taken pictures, I really should have. Landing on the island of Santorini was one of the most exquisite things I have ever seen. It was now night and the whole island of white and blue was lit up in unison and reflected a sparkle on the ocean. It truly is so hard to do justice to this place's beauty. It is built in perfection. The way the houses flow and blend together in beautiful color and the light, it is a true work of art, and we haven't even landed yet!

It's funny though, you dream of being in a place for so long that when you finally get there you can't accept it. Maybe it's a first timer thing, but when you are on the other side of the world you just don't believe it. It is an strange yet amazing feeling to realize that for one, yes this place is real, and two, there are other people in the world living life just like you in your small Pennsylvania community, and no, they have never heard or even thought of NEPA. 

When we arrived, at the tiniest little airport imaginable, we made our way to the rental car booths. Okay, so it is around nine thirty at night, the airport is about to shut down, no one is there except for the few men in booths, and you haven't got any internet service. I might also mention Jesse has yet to turn 21 that month and you better believe we were praying 18 was the age to get a rental there. Well, guess what? It wasn't. We were denied two out of the three rental booths and now we have no means of transportation, no internet service, and the airport is closing. Praying, we walked over to the last booth. Inside was a older Greek man with a spunky personality and a quirky smile. Jesse began to explain to him our situation and the man looked at both of us and gave us a look only a grandpa would give you. He asked us where we were from, what we were doing there, and not out of skepticism but out of genuine curiosity and conversation. He saw that I didn't have a jacket on and gave me that look. It was sixty degrees out, but to them sixty means winter. He told me, in his insanely thick greek accent, " My child, I love you, you are like my daughter, but you need to put a turtleneck on." It makes me smile even thinking about him. We honestly talked to him for about fifteen minutes as he then asked for Jesse's license. He saw that Jesse was genuine, that he was about to turn twenty-one within weeks, he knew we were married, and that Jesse had a CDL. Sighing he said, " Alright what did the other men offer you for price?" He then proceeded to give us a rental car for lowest price! It gets even better. We were about to pay him and he says," No, no, pay me when you come back, it's just money my child it does not matter."  Seriously? We need to learn some things from these people. They live for something more than money?  He then proceeded to close down his shop and told us that we would follow him across the island and he would show us our hotel. What a guy!

So we followed Andreas through the blur of rain through little towns of stucco and tiny cobblestone streets. We finally ended up in a church parking lot. Yup, you are probably wondering the same thing we were. Why are we parked in a church parking lot? Well, lets just say Santorini is nothing like what we know back home, nothing at all. There aren't giant parking lots for every store, hotel, or restaurant. There are no billboards advertising what is nearby. There are barely any street signs except for the occasional STOP. There aren't really signs at all. The only direction to our little hotel was down several flights of slippery steps on a cliffside. A 7 inch blue handpainted sign on a little white wall that read, Mill House Suites, with an arrow. Let me back track this by saying that in the summer they have WAY more tourists and they are prepared with drivers from all the hotels to come pick people up at certain times. We did not come during tourist season, so they do not accommodate these things or expect people from The United States to even visit during this time. Therefor, without this very generous man, we would be roaming the streets and cliff sides at midnight in Santorini. Which I have to admit would have made for quite the story! Anyways, we finally had made it to our destination with a little help!

  We made it!

We made it!

Andreas went back with Jesse to carry back our luggage and gave us a hug goodbye and told us to come visit him down at the travel shop where he would tell us more about the island and buy us chocolates to celebrate our marriage. Again, who is this man?!

With wet hair and and tired eyes we drifted off into a sea of white and blue with the idea of what tomorrow might bring.

 Good Morning Santorini! The fact that there are people out there that wake up to this every single day blows my mind. We woke up to a gorgeous morning filled with sunlight and the most delicious greek yogurt I've ever eaten. I really miss that yogurt. 

After enjoying a sweet little breakfast with a stunning view, we were off on our first adventure!

It was honestly like waking up in a dream. When you arrive at a place during the rain and at night you don't see a whole lot. When you fall asleep and wake up to this, it feels like you fell asleep and never woke up. It is almost shocking how beautiful it is. The corny saying, it takes your breath away, truly applies here! 

For any of you who don't know, most of Santorini is built on the cliffsides. The island forms a U type shape almost giving it a panoramic effect. This being one of the reason it has the most beautiful sunsets in the world as it reflects the ocean and all the beautiful colored buildings above. So, being built on a cliffside means that you have stairs climbing all over the island. I don't believe one gym exists on the island and if it does, the people who work there probably twiddle their thumbs all day. Climbing up and down those stairs every single day, several times a day, who needs the gym?

So on our explorations we realize dogs and cats quite the common site. They actually are in the same spot every single day. We never actually could decide if they belonged to a family or if the whole community of people just took care of them in turns. I like the idea of the second. They are a part of the character and community of the island. Just hanging out in the warm breezy sun, being loved on by new tourists, and taken care of by everyone. What a life!